Civil rights leader Julian Bond says the United States has come a long way since Martin Luther King Jr. was leading the movement. However, even with Barack Obama, the nation's first black president, about to be sworn into his second term in office, it still has a long way to go.
Bond, the keynote speaker at Sunday's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration at Reston Community Center, said despite the progress this country has made, there is a backlash that gets more of the attention.
"Black people have struggled to find answers to a series of questions. 'Who or what is the enemy?' 'Who are our friends?' Unlike Italian or Irish Americans, African Americans remain the indigestible alternative. Unlike the others, they refuse to agree to white supremacy. Unlike the others, black ethnic mobilization has also been demeaned as identity politics.
"Somehow, [we remain] democratically illegitimate, while white variants like puritanism, the Confederacy, the Klu Klux Klan, the Tea Party, the Moral Majority and others are just expressions of democratic activism. ... Barack Obama is to the Tea Party as the moon is to werewolves. Those who say race is history have it backward — history is race."
In order to move forward, "we are going to have to accept that America is a racist county," said Bond.
"We are still a country at war with itself," he said. "We have gone from Civil War to Civil Rights."
Bond's speech was part of a weekend of events in Reston to honor Dr. King's legacy. There were service projects and kid-oriented projects; a concert by the Reston Community Orchestra; a commemorative march from Lake Anne Plaza to Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation; and the "Voices of Inspiration" concert.
Other local dignitaries speaking at RCC's 28th annual event included Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, County Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova and Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA 11th).